Gender, Work and Organization (GWO)
9th Biennial International Interdisciplinary conference, 29th June-1st July, 2016
Keele University, UK
Masculinities: a non/contested terrain?
David Knights, Lancaster University & Open University, ENGLAND
Alison Pullen, Macquarie University, AUSTRALIA
Since the 1970s discourses of managerialism and masculinity have been pre-eminent in organizations
within neo-liberal economies. They thrive on disembodied and phallogocentric modes of rationality
(Derrida, 1982; Irigaray, 1985), compulsory heterosexuality (Foucault, 1977) or heterosexual
hegemony (Butler, 1990) and the glorification of power (Pullen and Rhodes, 2015). This rationality is
tunnel visioned in its pursuit of strategic and instrumental goals designed to increase shareholder value
in private and cost effective efficiency in public organizations. While often professing policies of
concern for people, equal opportunity and a commitment to diversity, these are supported only where
they can be demonstrated to facilitate the achievement of managerial goals either directly through
increasing market share or indirectly through enhancing reputation. Interestingly the divide between
private and non-private institutions in terms of accountability to shareholders and the public
respectively is of less significance than the managerial means of delivering that for which they are
accountable. Both rely on the same masculine techniques of audit, targets, competitive rankings and
other performative measures that are regulated through material and symbolic incentives and
punishments – in short, on the masculine managerialism of ‘conquest, competition and control’
(Kerfoot and Knights, 1994). Developments in management and organization surrounding
masculinity since the 1990s were important in establishing vast inequalities of power and gendered
subjectivities in organizations (Collinson and Hearn, 1996; Knights, 1990). In so doing, the
subordination of gendered others in organizations that privilege hegemonic masculinity (Connell,
1995) has been recognised (Fotaki, 2012). Theoretically and empirically we have seen the costs of
masculinity (Messner, 1997).
In terms of organizations, the masculine body and some aspect of heteronormal masculinity is the
default and dominant social order. A recent example is Kachtan and Wasserman’s (2015) study of
male Israeli combat soldiers, which highlight the way in which the male body becomes a site or
resource for status, prestige and dominance in military organizations. The dominance of hegemonic
masculinity in organizations presents a white, middle class, able-bodied, heterosexual form. Given the
prevalence of multiple masculinities in organizations, we ask why male and female bodies are
reproduced dichotomously. Critiques of gender binaries (see for example, Knights and Kerfoot, 2004;
Borgerson and Rehn, 2004; Pullen and Knights, 2004; Phillips et al., 2014) informed by
poststructuralist philosophy contest gender binaries. Additionally, minority masculinities are well
established across cultural and gender studies. For example, Halberstam’s (1998) cultural reading of
female masculinity asks us to read masculinity outside of the male body. A question arises for
organizational researchers; what can we learn from minority masculinities that defy masculinity as
mapped between male and female bodies? What alternative gender theorising is possible if new
masculinities are not borrowed from male masculinity?
Recent work has also asked how disembodied masculinities undermine ethics, calling for an embodied
ethics (Knights, 2015) or corporeal ethics (Pullen and Rhodes, 2013). These contributions provide
examples of engaging with alternatives to the masculine and organizing, and address the extent to
which politics can emerge following feminist philosophy (Braidotti, 2011; Gatens and Lloyd, 1999).
Importantly this raises the possibility of an ethico-politics of resistance (Pullen and Rhodes, 2013), or,
an ethno-gendered resistance (Kachtan and Wasserman, 2015) where the diverse body is a site of
control and resistance. Yet despite these developments, we suggest that particular heteronormative
conceptions of masculinity are reified within management and organizations; indeed, they assume a
sovereign space that seems untouchable. Is then the embedded dominance of masculine forms of
organizational life beyond challenge or transformation?
This stream asks: why are the same debates around masculinity returning some decades after the initial
concerns were voiced by feminists and pro-feminist men? Is this because after the global economic
and political crises of the past few years, organizations are encompassing greater ambiguity,
insecurity, instability, doubt and even disaster and that such vulnerability seems incompatible with
tough, macho masculine discourses of control? Or is the impetus driven by academics who see
discourses of masculinity informing men’s and women’s working practices in such ways as to violate
difference, community, sociality and freedom? Are there alternative masculinities that assist in
contesting dominant hegemonic, heteronormal discourses of masculinity in organizations? We
encourage both theoretical and/ or empirical submissions that seek critically to examine various
aspects of masculinity and managerialism in contemporary organizations and the new economy, and
question how analysis of a range of masculinities can advance critical thinking. Some areas that may
be of interest to potential contributors are:
• The masculinity of managerialism and managerial masculinities
• Male/masculine dominated organizations
• Turbo capitalism, organizational performance and masculinity
• Father/motherhood and the management of work and home
• New masculinities/ New men
• Contesting hegemonic, heteronormal masculinities through historical and local contingencies
• Masculinity, minority masculinities and performance.
• Empirical studies of the un/doing of masculinity
• Gendered subjectivities and workplace practices
• Masculinities and intersectional theory
• Masculinities and practice theory
• Diversity theory and masculinities
• Multiple masculinities and sexualities
• Organizational control as masculinity and its queering
• Homo-intimacy and homo-eroticism in organizations.
• Homo/heterosexuality and work/organizations.
• Female masculinity
• Lesbian masculinity, butch, drag kings, trans, tomboys.
• The gender-blindness of neo-liberal capitalism
• Feminism as an alternative to neo-liberal managerialism
• Feminist critiques of hegemonic masculinities
Abstracts of approximately 500 words (ONE page, Word document NOT PDF, single spaced,
excluding references, no header, footers or track changes) are invited by 1st November 2015 with
decisions on acceptance to be made by stream leaders within one month. All abstracts will be peer
reviewed. New and young scholars with 'work in progress' papers are welcomed. Papers can be
theoretical or theoretically informed empirical work. In the case of co-authored papers, ONE person
should be identified as the corresponding author. Note that due to restrictions of space, multiple
submissions by the same author will not be timetabled.
Abstracts should include FULL contact details, including your name, department, institutional affiliation,
mailing address, and e-mail address. State the title of the stream to which you are submitting your abstract.
Note that no funding, fee waiver, travel or other bursaries are offered for attendance at GWO2016.
Abstracts should be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org before 1 November 2015